Last updated July 2008
family and descendants of
Waldo May (1812-1880)
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Thomas moved his family to Oregon via Missouri on the 1847 wagon train that traveled along the Oregon Trail. The journey with his wife and their five children, ages 3 to 14, began in Shelbyville, IL to join hundreds of other families near Independence, Missouri. Some family records say that Thomas' sister, Rebecca (31), who had been blind since she was 16, traveled with the family. It also appears from the 1850 Oregon census that his youngest brother, Andrew Jackson May (16), traveled with Thomas. In May they began a 2,000 mile trek to Oregon City from this famous starting point on the Missouri River. They wouldn't arrive at their destination until October. See Maps.
1847 also marked the beginning of the Mormon migration under the leadership of Bringham Young to the Great Salt Lake. During the winter of 1846-47 the terrible tragedy of the Donner Party occurred in the in the Sierras. The Donners had traveled from Springfield, IL [less than 75 miles from the home of the May family] and those that followed in 1847 began to hear stories of their fate.
A few months before the May family left their homes California passed from Mexico to the United States. In 1848 gold was discovered at Sutter's Mill and the wild rush for riches was well underway by 1849. Soon after Thomas safely arrived with his family he staked his claim for land in Decembre 1847. State records also tell of Thomas being absent from home for long periods of time from May 1849 through 1852 to try his luck in the gold mines.
*** Oregon Donation
Land Claims, Vol. I No. 724 ***
In addition to the records for his land claim, we know that Thomas moved his family from Illinois to Oregon via Missouri on the 1847 wagon train from an obituary of his daughter Sophia Jane May (1838-1925). She had celebrated her ninth birthday when the family was making their final preparations to leave their home is Shelbyville. See notes on Sophia
The 1860 Census of Beaver Creek Precinct of Clackamas Co., OR lists Thomas W. May , born in N. Carolina. He and his son Stephen  were living in the home of Peter S. Noyer, husband of his daughter Delilah , who had two young children. Peter was later elected to serve in the Oregon Legislature from Clackamas County in 1874, 1882 & 1887. Thomas' wife, Nancy, had died the previous year. The households of his son Harvey  and brother Lafayette  are also on the same page of the census. The household of his son Wiley W. May  is listed on the previous page.
1870 Census of Beaver Precinct of Clackamas Co., OR lists Thomas W. May, age 57, born in Kentucky. He was living in his own household, next to the family of his brother Jephta. The families of his son Harvey B. May and brother, Layafette, are on the previous section of this page of the census.